Today I went shopping for suspenders to wear to a formal event tonight. Macy’s is having a sale, and I have a friends and family coupon good for an additional 20% savings. However, their selection, at least in the one I was at—a newly converted Filene’s—had a limited selection none of which was to my liking. Earlier this week DJ and I had scoured the nearby Filene’s Basement in search of business casual wear for him for his uncle’s retirement party. While there I had spotted a rack of suspenders, the sort that conjure images of staunch bankers lounging in leather arm chairs and top hats centered about a blazing fire in den smoking cigars. Since that’s the sort of horrible old man I’d someday like to be, I went back and found myself a handsome pair of goldenrod silk with black leather fittings.
Now I had assumed, wrongly, that the brass clasps displayed on the front hinted to metal fasteners hiding under the packaging. When I got them home and discovered empty leather loops, I was confused and a little bit anxious. The dance starts in less than an hour, at 9pm. Frantically, I patroled the internet, using Google as my search dog. After looking at more hunting sites than I expected, I discovered that there are at least four types of suspenders: clip, button, hook, and Perry. Button suspenders, like the type I now own, require buttons to be sewn onto the pants. These, I guess, are for those who are confident that they will wear suspenders and wear them frequently.
Now, I’m not sure just how I was supposed to know about the finer interworkings of suspender mechanics. It’s not well documented, not even on the internet. I had to infer the various types based store front pages like this one and this one at Hanks Clothing. [Notice the category “Rugged suspenders.”]
Because of the numerous hits to hunting websites in my searches, I called up Michelle, who, being from Maine, may have more experience hunting and therefore more experience with suspenders than I. She was at an art gallery for a wine tasting and didn’t know anything about my mysterious loops.
Not yet thwarted, I left a somewhat urgent message for Susannah. When she called me back, she immediately asked, “They’re not the kind you need to have buttons on your pants, are they?” How could she have known; where does one acquire such knowledge? Susannah explained that when she was young she had a doll of one of the characters from the Little House on the Prairie who wore such suspenders. I, who never had a Prairie doll, could never have known. But women don’t often wear suspenders. They’re a primarily a man’s accessory. I told her that it was unreasonable for women to learn this sort of thing while keeping men in the dark. Women learn about fashion when they are young, she explained, and men don’t. It’s just that simple. I posited a theory: this is how women actually keep the power that they secretly have. They claim society favors men. But much like Israel’s nuclear weapons program, it’s an open secret that they have it.
Susannah seemed unconvinced. I need a seamstress or a tailor.